Kelowna mayor Colin Basran met with 12 students from Kelowna Secondary School for a ‘100 Dinners’ meeting on Wednesday.
100 Dinners is part of the Vital Signs program, which is run by the Central Okanagan Foundation. The program gathers groups of people together around a meal to discuss what they like about Kelowna, and what can be done to improve it. The program serves as both a motivational exercise and data gathering tool, and Vital Signs Coordinator Kimberly Carter explained they want to speak to as many diverse groups as possible. So far those groups have included the KSS students, and a group of homeless clients at the Kelowna Gospel Mission.
The KSS meeting was the first Basran attended as a special guest, and Carter was thrilled to have him there.
“I want to thank mayor Basran,” Carter said. “With this group of youth we could have had this experience, but it gives more meaning when the mayro sits down at the table. That’s something that they will remember for ten years, for 20 years. That someone of this stature paid attention to their voice. It’s extremely meaningful.”
Basran noted the opinions and insights of youth are often overlooked, and this was a step towards correcting that.
“It’s good to hear their perspective, and we know that attracting and retaining young people in our community is as important as it’s ever been,” he described. “So we should be listening to our youth, because these are exactly the types of people we want staying in our community and helping to bring about innovative solutions to problems in our community. At the end of the day we want them to be engaged, because we want them to be here and for it to be an amazing place for them.”
The KSS meeting covered many different topics, including student graduation rates, a sense of belonging to the community, mental health, tansit and teaching students about what voting means and why they should do it. Basran explained it was good to attend the meeting with an open mind and hear different perspectives on the topic, as now if one of the issues is brought up at a council session they will have insight into the perspective of youth on the matter.
“I think that there’s sometimes an expectation from some people in our community that government is the answer to everything,” he said. “And that’s simply not possible. We don’t have all the answers as elected officials, and we need great community groups involved in finding solutions. That’s why I’m really thrilled with what Kim is trying to do, because at the end of the day we all have a responsibility as residents in our community to make it a better place.”
Lining up a meeting is a simple process, as it can either be done through the Central Okanagan Foundation website or by emailing Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Basran also added if other groups were interested in having him attend future meetings, he would be open to the idea.